Tūrangawaewae; 'a place to stand'
Is a deep empowerment from the land
Learnt through ancestral connection
Strengthened through ahi kā; 'keeping the fires burning'
Well, my ancestral stories ain't so impressive
There were few battles
Though my granddad worked for the air force in world war two
- As an accountant
We didn't encounter the gods or try to bring down the sun
Though when my Grandma arrived here she built up the soil
Soul of the Earth
For 70 years
As the city sprang up around her
And my mother aged 11 played follow the leader
With a goat in the next door construction site
Where her house is now
My uncle found an old man's false teeth in a cup
Climbing through an abandoned house
My aunt visited James K Baxter's Jerusalem
She wasn't a fan of his poetry
But his wisdom spoke to her
My other aunts' jumped through the neighbour's trees
Who threatened to shoot them
My father followed my mother here
After her O.E with my sister in the oven
He bitches about John Key as much as anyone
And praises this land; it is home.
I stood on a windy cliff surrounded by pōhutukawa and learnt the whisper of the sea
Roughing it on an island I tried determinedly to turn into a pukeko
I got my first cut, bruise, scrape from this land
My first breath, poem, touch of a violin, my first kiss was here
I know the rough patches, the fringe scene, where the best soil is
(It's at my grams house)
I know where to get the best view of the stars, which cafes will let us jam,
Where the open mics are 5 days of the week.
I know Kirikiriroa.
My fires have been burning
And I have a right to stand
I have learnt through my own evolution
Through Janet Frame's railroad country
Through a history
Cities growing and spreading
They weren't just here
As it has always seemed to me.
The countryside, what was here before?
Landscapes of forest and mountain
Familiar yet unknown to me.
When I go away I will know the difference
When I return I will know this land
The depth recognized through contrast
Defined by difference
As the sun and moon complement
Light and dark
Sorrow and joy
As in yin and yang
I will know nothing is completely separate.
When I go away I will know
And I will return and say:
This is my place to stand
I am a recent Melbournite, born and raised in New Zealand. Now that I am overseas I know the difference :) though Australia has to be the least different I could have chosen.
Tūrangawaewae means 'a place to stand' in Māori. This is often linked to the marae as the foundation and is about inner strength and confidence to stand as well as an external right to stand. It has links to rights to a space which are kept through ahi kā 'keeping the fires burning' - tending to your land, looking after it, utilising it. If the fires are not kept burning for three consecutive generations the right to the land is extinguished. A right to land can be claimed through ancestral connection to the area, by reciting the stories of your people. I don't really have those, I'm mostly English. But it is also about a deep connection to land, and being empowered by this. My connection to this land is undeniable. My right to stand is connected to this. I feel grounded in a culture I've only partially been touched by, my roots are so deep in this soil and intertwined with theirs. For more information visit here.